Reckless Driving – Frequently Asked Questions

Also see our Reckless Driving Defense page.

Am I really facing a criminal charge for Reckless Driving?

Do I need a Lawyer?

Why Should I Fight My Reckless Driving Ticket?

Could I really go to Jail for a Reckless Driving Ticket?

Should I plead guilty?

Can I beat the charges or get them reduced?

Will my license be suspended?

How Long Will A Reckless Driving Conviction Stay on My Driving Record?

Are Penalties Tougher for Under 18?

Will I lose my job?

I had a perfect driving record before this. Will that help?

What should I do to prepare for my reckless driving court appearance?

If I hire an Attorney, do I have to show up in court?

What will it cost to hire a lawyer to fight my reckless driving ticket?

What are Abusive Driver Fees?

What kind of driving behavior can get you charged with Reckless Driving?

Where are the most common spots to be charged with Reckless Driving in Virginia?

What is the Slow Down / Move Over Law ?

Reckless Driving Answers

Am I really facing a criminal charge for Reckless Driving?

Yes, if you were pulled over and giving a summons to appear in a Virginia criminal court on reckless driving charges, you could be sentenced to as much as a year in jail, and face a suspended driver’s license for 6 months$2500 in fines, and a criminal record that could follow you around for the rest of your life.

Do I need a Lawyer?

Going to court on a reckless driving summons without at least speaking with a lawyer first is a very risky proposition. Not all reckless driving charges are alike, and not all courts and judges treat them the same way. Some judges may be fair and lenient and reduce or drop the charges easily, but many will not.

Some judges and courts will give you a good deal, especially if you have a clean driving record, but only if you present and file the proper motions. And some courts, like Fairfax, may not allow you to negotiate with the prosecutor without a lawyer. You could be at the mercy of the judge to issue whatever sentence he decides.

So the real answer is, it depends. Having a lawyer who knows how to argue the facts and knows how sympathetic a judge is likely to be to any particular argument is a huge plus, and can save you thousands of dollars. Maybe you can get the same results on your own, but you really won’t know until it’s too late to do anything about it.

It makes sense to take advantage of our free case evaluation on your charge of reckless driving in Virginia. Then you can at least be informed about the facts of your case and decide if we can help you.

Why Should I Fight My Reckless Driving Ticket?

You could just pay the citation, that’s true. If you are lucky enough that you can afford the thousands of dollars in fines, fees, and insurance rate increases. But you will be agreeing to a permanent criminal record that could have implications and consequences in your life for years to come.

  • permanent criminal record can affect your future job opportunities if you have to declare it on a job application. You can’t get some security clearances or be hired in most law enforcement careers. If you are applying for citizenship, a criminal conviction could affect your eligibility. Any background check will show that you have a misdemeanor criminal conviction. This public record could very well be available with any google search at some point in the future.
  • It will save you money. An amount that can easily get into the thousands of dollars, even after paying our attorney’s fees.
  • Rental car agencies may refuse to rent you a car. All the major rental agencies –  Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, Budget, Dollar, and Alamo – have connections to online DMV databases, and they can choose to deny you the right to rent a car if you have a criminal driving charge. If you are a frequent business traveler, this could be a real potential problem for you.
  • Canada and other countries customs and border agents may restrict entry to travelers with misdemeanor convictions, like DUI and drug possession. A reckless driving conviction could be flagged at the border and cause you to be denied entry if you don’t disclose it.
  • You can win if you fight. It is very possible to get the charges reduced down from a criminal offense in many cases. For case evaluation of your exact situation, please call (877) 439-2999 or contact us via the form to the right.

Could I really go to Jail on a Reckless Driving Ticket?

Yes, it is absolutely possible, although not likely in most typical cases. Some judges are extremely tough on reckless drivers. In most Virginia courts, for a typical “reckless by speed” or “20 mph over the limit” reckless citation, jail is rare unless the judge has a specific issue. But in other circumstances, it is more common.

A defense attorney who knows the court and the judges will be able to advise you of the risks, but it absolutely does happen in some courtrooms. Get a case evaluation from our attorneys to find out what your risks are in the Virginia court where you are scheduled to appear.

But more extreme reckless driving charges, such as traveling over 90 or 100 mph, or other behavior that seriously endangers the public, jail time is likely in many courts if you are found guilty. You need a defense lawyer to fight to protect you from this outcome.

Should I plead guilty?

Definitely not. You need to speak to a lawyer before doing anything to make sure you aren’t admitting to something that could easily be dismissed or reduced, saving you thousands of dollars and a permanent criminal record.

Can I beat the charges or get them reduced?

Yes, there are many excellent legal and procedural arguments that may be able get your case dismissed.

We can challenge the circumstances of the stop, challenge the calibration and maintenance of the device that clocked you speed, and more.

But for most people, the simplest thing to do is argue for a reduction in charges to a civil (non-criminal) traffic offense, like Improper Driving, or even a simple speeding ticket. It is well within a judge’s discretion to reduce the charges to improper driving when the circumstances indicate “the degree of culpability is slight” to sustain a reckless driving charge.

In many courts, a lawyer who knows the system can fairly easily get the charges reduced from a criminal down to a civil charge, saving you thousands of dollars in fines, fees, and car insurance rate increases, as well as keeping your criminal record clean.

In more complex cases, or if there is a judge who is unsympathetic to a standard charge reduction, we can often make other arguments that will help, including driver improvement classes, car maintenance, or extenuating circumstances and personal hardship.

The goal is to make sure you don’t have a criminal record, which will show up in simple background checks, and can affect your life in hundreds of ways, from getting a job, renting an apartment, getting a loan, and more. That’s what I focus on primarily. If we have to fight to get there, then we will fight.

Will my license be suspended?

It is possible, yes, but it is something we can work and fight to avoid. It depends on the number of points you currently have on your driving record, the nature and seriousness of the reckless driving offense, and a number of other factors.

For a “20mph over the limit”  or an “80mph” violation, with no other extenuating circumstances, and in front of a fair judge, this can be avoided.

So in most cases, you will keep your license with an experienced criminal defense lawyer representing you. But, for example, if you are charged with a reckless over 85mph in a 55 zone, or 30mph over the speed limit, many judges, particularly in the Fairfax court, will sentence you to a 6-month suspension of your driver’s license.

In more serious situations where a judge is inclined to suspend your drivers license for some period of time, he or she will usually allow a restricted license.

How Long Will A Reckless Driving Conviction Stay on My Driving Record?

You will have 6 points on your Virginia driver’s license for between 5 and 11 years. This will affect your insurance rates, and any other traffic incidents could result is additional lengthy license loss.

Are Reckless Driving Penalties Tougher for Under 18?

In court, not necessarily, but judges may be less inclined to be lenient on sentencing or reduce the charges, and may want to “send a message”.

But the DMV will definitely require you to complete a driver improvement clinic anytime an underage driver gets points on your license.

Will I lose my job?

If your license is suspended, and you need to drive to work, then that is a risk. Avoiding the driver’s license suspension would be our top priority in court.

If you have a job where a criminal conviction could result in termination, then that is possible. Many people in Virginia have government jobs with security clearance requirements, and a criminal record could be a violation of your employment contract. That is another reason to fight to get the reckless charge dropped to a non-criminal citation.

Any criminal conviction for reckless driving can certainly affect your future job opportunities. It can prohibit you from many law enforcement, civil service, and government jobs. And any employer may hesitate to hire you, or even interview you if they see a criminal conviction on a commonly used background check.

I had a perfect driving record before this. Will that help?

Usually, yes, that can be a big plus. If we walk into court and can document that you have a +5 rating (positive demerits), a  judge may more easily agree to a reduced fine and reduced charges.

In the opposite case, having negative points / demerits on your driving record may mean some extra effort and hard legal negotiating to get you a positive outcome and reduction of the charges to an improper driving offense, or other reduction.

What should I do to prepare for my reckless driving court appearance?

We can discuss this in a consultation, but some of the things we often need or use in court are:

1) A certified copy of your driving record. We need to know your driving history, and if it is clean, we can present the records to the judge as evidence of your excellent driving history.

This record can be obtained easily from the Virginia DMV online or in person for $13.

2) A speedometer calibration test. In cases where you were very close to the limit, if a speedometer test shows that it appears lower than it should, it could help prove that you would not have known you were speeding. We don’t use this in all cases, but with close reckless by speed cases, it can sometimes be helpful.

3) A driver improvement course. Voluntary Virginia driver improvement programs can sometimes be helpful in showing a judge you are serious about correcting a mistake or bad driving habits.

There are a few courses available online here and here. But we can discuss how helpful they would be in your situation.

If I hire an Attorney, do I have to show up in court?

Not usually. In many cases, if you hire us you won’t have to show up in court. We can appear on your behalf and get the charges reduced. You’ll get a notice in the mail of the new disposition, pay the reduced fine, and that will be the end of it.

This is a huge benefit to people who live far away from where they got pulled over and can’t easily make it to court.

We handle lots of reckless driving charges for out of state residents from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, and more. I don’t know if the Virginia state police are more likely to pull over people with out of state license plates, but sometimes it seems that way!

What will it cost to hire a lawyer to fight my reckless driving ticket?

Representation in court for most simple reckless driving ticket defenses costs under $1000. Sometimes quite a bit less, depending on the court, the case, and other factors. Getting your ticket reduced will save you many thousands of dollars, and can save you the time and effort of going court.

An initial consultation on your reckless case is absolutely free, and we’ll tell you exactly what we would charge you for representation, and what you will save by hiring a lawyer to get the charges reduced. So call or email to get some advice, and we can discuss your options, so you can decide what makes sense for you. (877) 439-2999

What are Abusive Driver Fees?

Update: The Virginia abusive driver fees law has been repealed.

A Virginia law was passed on July 1, 2007 added additional fees for Virginia residents found guilty of many driving offenses, including reckless driving. It would have cost you an extra $1050 over 3 years if you live in Virginia. When you renew your Virginia registration, you’ll be charged an additional $350 each year.

Also see my abusive driver fees press release.

Where are the most common spots to be charged with Reckless Driving in Virginia?

Practically anywhere. Some jurisdictions are tougher than others, but we commonly see driving 20mph charges across the state up and down I-95, across I-66 and Northern Virginia, I-81 through the Shenandoah Valley, down to Roanoke and beyond, and I-64 through Charlottesville.

Out of state drivers passing through with license plates from North Carolina or Maryland are frequent targets for a reckless driving citation from local VA police officers or the Virginia State Police (VSP).

The Dulles Toll Road in Fairfax is a particularly popular spot to get a reckless driving ticket.

There are also frequent and aggress patrols around many different parts of the state. Many different parts of route 29, from Charlotteville/Albermarle county all the way down to Lynchburg see reckless driving traffic patrols.

What is the Slow Down / Move Over Law ?

A law that is being enforced more often is the Slow down / Move Over law that requires you to slow down when there is a police, ambulance, fire, or emergency vehicle parked on the right side of the road with lights flashing.

If it is a multiple lane road, you are required to “move over” to the left lane, if able to do so safely.

This law is subjectively enforced, since however much one must slow down is not explicit in the statute, 46.2-921.1.

More on slow down / move over.

What kind of driving behavior can get you charged with Reckless Driving?

Reckless driving offenses come in many different flavors, and some are trickier to defend that others. Most are based on the observations of a police officer, so they can be very subjective in their judgment. This can be the basis of our defense in court.

Speeding – Driving 20 MPH over the posted speed limit (Virginia Criminal Code Section 46.2-862)

The most common reckless driving charge is simply driving 20 miles per hour over the limit. This is usually the easiest charge to get reduced from a criminal to civil speeding ticket. Commonly referred to as “Reckless by Speed“.

Speeding – Driving 80 MPH (VCC 46.2-862)

Also common. Most judges are less likely to agree to a reduction to a simple speeding ticket if you were driving 80 miles per hour or higher, but we can often get the charge reduced to Improper driving (not a criminal charge).

Failing to give proper signal (Virginia Criminal Code Section 46.2-860)

Failing to use turn signals properly. Yes, a simple mistake like a missed turn signal can get you a criminal charge!

Driving vehicle which is not under control; faulty brakes (VCC 46.2-853)

Poor brakes, or stopping to quickly or slowly.

Driving too fast for highway and traffic conditions (VCC 46.2-861)

This one is purely subjective, based on the officer’s opinion of traffic, weather or road conditions. You could be cited at any speed for reckless driving if the police officer thinks it was too fast for the situation.

Failure to yield right-of-way (VCC 46.2-863)

If the officer believes you did not yield when another driver had the right of way, he can cite you for reckless driving.

Reckless driving; general rule – endangering (VCC 46.2-852)

Another purely subjective charge. If the officer believes you were driving in any way that was reckless or endangering others on the road, he will ticket you under this law. Also known as driving to endanger, or operating to endanger.

Passing a stopped school bus (VCC 46.2-859)
Passing an emergency vehicle (VCC 46.2-829)

Applies to any police vehicle, fire engine, ambulance, or other legitimate safety or law enforcement vehicle with flashing lights and a siren.

Slow Down / Move Over For Emergency Vehicle (VCC 46.2-921.1)

Driver must slow down to a “safe” speed, or move over to the left lane on a multiple lane road if a police or emergency vehicle is parked on the right side of the road.

Racing (46.2-865)

The Reckless Driving penalty for racing also includes an automatic license suspension for 6 months to 2 years.

Passing on a grade or a curve (46.2-854)

This penalty generally applies when passing in a no passing zone where there is limited visibility due to a hill or a curve.

Driving two abreast in a single lane (46.2-857)
Passing two abreast  (46.2-857)

These laws are open to some interpretation, but you can be cited for reckless for driving a motorcycle side by side with another motorcycle in the same lane.

Obstructed View (46.2-855)

Too many people in the car, or too many objects that make it unsafe to drive or reduce your visibility.

Parking Lot (46.2-864)

Driving recklessly or dangerously in a parking lot

Passing at a railroad grade crossing (VCC 46.2-858)
Passing two vehicles abreast (VCC 46.2-856)
Driving two abreast in a single lane (Virginia Criminal Code 46.2-857)

If you are accused of reckless driving or other traffic offenses in Virginia, call now for a no-obligation, no-risk, free consultation at (877) 439-2999. Find out exactly what can happen to you in your case, and what a Virginia criminal traffic attorney can do to help.